Did you know
…that the yearly quantity of rain for Korcula Island is 1221mm and that the rain is very rare in summer? There are only 41 days in the whole year when it rains between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. so when it rains on Korcula, it rains mostly at night.
…how many little islets are around Korcula Island? Well, the number of islets in the Korcula archipelago is 49! Varying from larger ones to really small examples – some of them are forested and some of them bare rock (tiny ones), depending mostly on their size. Almost half of them are off the shores around Korcula Town and Lumbarda, couple can be found in and around Vela Luka bay area, just a few along the northern coast and others (also almost half of the total number) are off the shores of the western part of South Riviera.
…what is the origin of the island's name? The fact that the name “Korcula” has its roots in the Greek name of the island “Korkyra Melaina” (meaning “Black Korkyra”) is already well known. But what is the story behind the name “Korkyra”? It seems that the island is bound up with the history of Greece from the beginnings of Greek mythology. Its Greek name, Kerkyra or Korkyra, is related to two powerful water symbols: Poseidon, the god of the sea and Asopos, the god of an important Greek mainland river. According to myth, Poseidon fell in love with the beautiful nymph Korkyra, daughter of Asopos and river nymph Metope, and abducted her. Poseidon brought Korkyra to an unnamed island and in marital bliss, he offered her name to the place: Korkyra, today known as the island of Corfu. This Greek island in the Ionian Sea was the homeland of the first Greek colonists that came on Korcula somewhere in the 6th century B.C., naming the island for the first time.
…that Korcula’s forests were main source of wood for Venice? Couple of centuries ago, Korcula had been supplying the timber for the wooden walls of Venice throughout the years, also being a favorite station for the ships of Venetians fleets.
…what are “maskare”? “Maskare” is a name used for the time of the Carnival festivities, but also for all the different masks and costumes that people traditionally like to wear in that time of year. During the Carnival time, in many villages and towns all over the island, traditional masked balls and parades are held. Festivities reach a peak on Shrove Tuesday, when “Krnoval” is placed on trial because he is to blame for all the misfortunes that happened in the town during the past year. It all ends in his punishment - he is burnt and the people celebrate with traditional local food and drinks. There are also summer Carnival festivities on Korcula Island, different manifestations organized for the tourists to become acquainted with these cheerful traditions and for everyone to enjoy and have fun on many themed parties and events.
…that in the center of Prizba there's a small Sisters of Mercy convent? In Prizba, Blessed Marija Petkovic of the Crucified Jesus wrote the Constitution of her Order in 1920. Also, on the same Ratak peninsula ancient Roman “villa rustica” (countryside villa) findings were discovered and that is why it is believed that Prizba was a first location for holiday houses built by inhabitants of Blato.
…the romantic story of “Lumblija”? “Lumblija” is special sweet and aromatic bread which originates from the inland town of Blato, in the central part of Korcula Island. It has been prepared for nearly 200 years and the story about its origin began in the time of Napoleon Bonaparte when he conquered Dalmatia and annexed the Republic of Ragusa, enabling French army to come on the island, since Korcula was also a part of the annexed Republic.
And the story goes...a young French soldier, baker in his profession, met a beautiful young girl from Blato and they fell in love with each other. Unfortunately their love was destined to end sadly so when the French army had to leave the island, the solider also had to leave the girl, but not with a proper goodbye – specially invented and made for her, he gave her a kind of a sweet bread as a token of his love, saying some beautiful goodbye words and also the phrase "ne m'oublie pas" (meaning “don't forget me”). The way the pronounced word "ne m'oublie pas" sounded to the heart-broken girl was ”lumblija”, so that is how the name was given to this unique pastry.
Inspired by this love story, it is no coincidence that “Lumblija” is prepared exactly at the beginning of November when we think of all the beloved ones who are no longer with us. “Lumblija” also represents a strong connection between Croatian and French culture and it is also an authentic gastro experience. Besides being delicious, it points out the island’s interesting traditions, it connects different local products and gifts of nature in a unique product and finally through a romantic love story it narrates about historical moment and the life as it once was on the island of Korcula.
Every year in the town of Blato, at the end of October, in order to preserve this beautiful romantic story, customs and tradition, there is organized exhibition, blessing and tasting of the “Lumblija”. Also, every year at the beginning of November you may enjoy spectacular “Days of Lumblija”, traditional “Lumblija” exhibition, gastro competition and tasting. Program consists of several parts: contestants with their own “Lumblija” breads, each made according to their family recipe; deciding on the best “Lumblija” by a panel of judges; male or female vocal a-cappella singing (“klapa” group); performances by pupils from Blato's Elementary and High School and free “Lumblija” tasting for all the visitors, served by the charming female “Kumpanjija” dancers in their traditional costumes. Knights’ association “Kumpanjija” also takes care for the food folklore tradition and preserves the tradition on preparing “Lumblija” so the members and friends of the Association prepare “Lumblija” together with other gastro delicacies for the traditional “House Party” which takes place at the beginning of the February.
…what is “meja”? “meja” is a form of a stone wall built in dry-wall technique, characteristic for coastal Croatia. If you ever drove through that part of the country and paid a little attention on your surroundings, you might have noticed countless stone walls hugging hills and dividing up the countryside. These structures were built without mortar to hold the stones in place, but instead they were stacked and fit carefully together like puzzle pieces. The mentioned technique is centuries old and so are most of the walls – for example, dividing parcels of land on the plain of Stari Grad on the island of Hvar is one of Croatia’s seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, built as early as the 4th century BC. But have you ever wondered why all the walls?
Just like other walls in Dalmatian region, where the land is filled with rocks and stones, the ones on Korcula Island were also built out of agricultural necessity. Whether to prevent the rain from washing away the land from hilly terrains or to serve as boundaries that separate the land between the owners, farmers painstakingly picked rocks out of the soil to clear space to grow olive trees and grapevines. Then they used those rocks to construct walls, fitting the pieces together so effectively that the walls stand for centuries, resisting all natural elements without breaking apart – almost like a rustic game of Tetris, but with the requirement of serious muscle power and a lot of patience.
On the island of Korcula, almost every hill has at least one “meja”, particularly on the south side of the island. It is even calculated that with the total length of these stone fences, solely from the Blato municipality, equator could be encircled one and a half time!! Impressive, wouldn’t you agree?
Well, no matter what form they take, there is something beautiful about these carefully assembled stone walls. Croatian artist Anton Glihac drew inspiration from their repetitious forms – he was fascinated by the relationship between the stone and the earth: man carefully freed earth from stone only to enclose it by building stone walls around it.
So now the next time you see these ancient stone walls, protecting the olive groves or hiding on the hill slopes, you will know the story behind that deceptively simple structure. ☺